Minaxi Indra, President and Head, upGrad for Business

Minaxi is a purpose-driven leader, motivated by building businesses that positively impact customers and the marketplace. Creating opportunities for people transformations and delivering a culture of excellence are her professional drivers. She is an innovative thinker and believes in aligning with customer’s objectives to drive mutual wins. Prior to her current role, she has almost two decades of exponential business growth experience across the Asia Pacific. In her current role at upGrad, Minaxi leads the end-to-end business operations for upGrad B2B arm, ‘upGrad for Business’, the specialized offering for Companies, enabling employee upskilling through deep learning and leading global university partnerships.

 

Inclusion and diversity have gone from being buzzwords to tenets, that organisations today have begun to choose as cultural and growth imperatives, not just talking about it but by living it every moment. The first mention of diversity in modern history is believed to be the legislation to desegregate the US army in the 1940s that required equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed services. Efforts continued and in the late 80s, a landmark book, “Workforce 2000 – Work and Workers in the Twenty First Century” highlighted the need for diversity initiatives in the workplace. From the 80s to now, at the end of the 21st century, if companies are seeking to drive growth, innovation while attracting talent, it is important to embrace both cultural and gender diversity.

The current century has seen the conversation on diversity shift and expand to incorporate inclusion, since a diverse and inclusive workforce is today recognized as being instrumental in driving the performance of a business, adding tangible value and intangible benefits from the varied viewpoints and approaches to work that a diverse workforce brings. However, it is important to get the right balance between diversity and inclusion to result in improved business performance and for that it should be integral to systems and processes beginning from staffing policies.

Inclusion in an organization should lead to an emotional outcome for the workforce where they feel included with a sense of fairness, respect, and being valued. An employee wants an organization to see him as a complete person and the way in which an organization supports work-life balance also has an impact on an employee’s perception of inclusion. A McKinsey study[2] has shown that businesses that led in executive gender diversity were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than the companies that came lower on the list, giving organisations an incentive to invest in a diverse and inclusive workforce. There is a widening gap between organizations that are leading in diversity and inclusion with those that have yet to embrace diversity. This shows that there is no time to be lost in adopting a bold business-led approach to diversity and inclusion.

Fostering Innovation and Organizational success

Diversity has been found to foster innovation and promote organizational success by encouraging different perspectives and ideas. Studies over the years have linked diversity and inclusion directly to financial performance through diverse market insights and a broader repertoire of skills for problem solving and innovation. But it needs to go beyond gender to include ethnic and cultural diversity. A 2019 McKinsey study highlighted that the top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth one by 36 percent in profitability, slightly up from 33 percent in 2017 and 35 percent in 2014, owing to higher degree of ethnic diversity.

Over the long term, growth and success of an organization depends on its ability to remain an employer of choice for a diverse workforce. Inclusive employment demonstrates positive company values and a reputation in the recruitment marketplace. A study by PwC shows that women millennials look for employers with a strong record of diversity, with 85 percent saying it’s important to them.

However, to successfully drive the diversity and inclusion agenda it should begin at the top of the pyramid with the leadership steering the organizational culture. Leaders are in a pivotal position of showing their conviction to the cause and of setting the tone for the rest to follow. They need to truly embrace and harness the power of diversity for this mind-set to permeate across the entire organization.

Transcending to include cultural diversity and drive inclusivity 

For an organization, it is important to realize that one size may not fit all and that the scope and dimensions of diversity may need to vary across different cultures. In the Indian context, diversity and inclusion goes beyond gender identities to include class, caste, religion, language, region and location, and increasingly, political affiliations. India is among the most diverse countries in the world, and one can say that Indians have an unconscious competence to manage diversity. However, the flip side is also present and it is necessary for organizations to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for any discriminatory behaviour.

Hiring diverse talent isn’t enough, the workplace experience has to follow through to provide the workforce an inclusive environment. Inclusion takes place across two levels, the first dependent on equality and participation with the workforce comparing their pay, rewards, etc. for fair treatment with other reference groups such as male versus female. Fair treatment can be practised by offering equal pay and growth opportunities. For instance, if women employee participation across Data Science, Technology & Management domains is limited, adopting a holistic approach to merge Technology and soft skills will help them grow. Therefore, offering them a chance to learn and apply these industry relevant skills to drive growth for themselves and for the organization.

Driving collaboration and trust among the workforce  

The second level occurs with the workforce being valued with their uniqueness being affirmed and appreciated by the organization, as well as their voice being heard in decisions, resulting in a sense of belonging and feeling of being connected. One must remember that every member of the workforce is an individual with the desire to belong, a need for appreciation and an expectation of being treated in a fair manner. When an organization invests in diversity and inclusion, the returns come from the loyalty, well-being and respect of the workforce. When employees sense that their organization is committed to their wellbeing, they work better due to a sense of belonging, acceptance and therefore a deeper sense of loyalty. This is expressed in better business performance with increased collaboration, innovation and responsiveness. Ensuring transparency around diversity and inclusion also strengthens the employer brand by enhancing trust among the workforce.

Today, edtech powered learning and development programs help organizations in upskilling their workforce, thereby enhancing gender diversity especially in fields which are conventionally dominated by males. Technology solutions provide corporates with organization-wide, on-demand learning capabilities that are in sync with evolving industry requirements to help the workforce stay abreast of evolving skill sets and trends, thus being future-ready to drive business outcomes!

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